Bullying in the workplace and micro-management may seem a strange topic to talk about here. But today I was asked today if I would attend “A Round Table”, a discussion on the behaviour of somebody in the workplace. There would only be three of us on this round table. It got me thinking about my previous job. I was the operations manager in a small division of Chubb Fire. The company within Chubb Fire was called Emtech. I loved working for Emtech when I first started. I worked for a lady called Emma who set the company up, and we worked out of her dining room and later a purpose-built office. The ethos of myPA comes from Emtech. Emma sold the company to Chubb Fire as she wanted to concentrate on other projects.
When I first joined Emtech, I asked Emma if she ever sold the company; to tell me so that I could decide if I would stay or look for another job. She made the promise that she would do so.
I worked for Emtech for about six years when I noticed that a few odd things were going on in the office. For example, paperwork was disappearing and then reappearing mysteriously. We were going through reams of paper, and printers were running out of ink. The office always appeared to have been opened than unusual. Small tiny things that you could put down to being tired or forgetfully.
In April, I picked up the phone to call Emma as I was worried about her. Emma would pass out for no reason. I picked up the phone and called her mobile number, and something inside me told me to put the phone down. For the first time, I knew I had to put the phone down. It later transpired that the moment I picked up the phone to call her, she signed the contract with Chubb Fire to sell the company without my knowledge.
There had been someone else in the office in the mornings and the evenings. It was the housekeeper, Emma’s husband, and Emma. They were photocopying various documents, making sure that the paperwork and contracts and client contact details were all in order and ready for the sale. They were doing due diligence.
Emma told me two days before the sale that she would never sell the business. It was her baby, and she would protect it as much as she could. Oh, what a fool I was!
On Sunday at 2:00 pm, I got a call from Emma, and she asked me to come to the office; as a matter of urgency. The office was a barn next to her home. She needed to talk to me. Being worried about her, so I went to the office. I found her in the garden drinking a glass of Pimm’s, and she invited me over. We sat down on the grass; she gave me a glass of Pimm’s. Her opening line to me was, “your job is safe for a year”. She then proceeded to tell me she’d sold the company to Chubb Fire.
I asked her why she hadn’t told me and reminded her of her promise. She replied that if I found out beforehand, she would have to give a large amount of money back to Chubb Fire. I was upset at this, and Emma then replied, “I don’t know why you’re crying. It doesn’t affect you”.
On Monday, I arrived at the office to find three representatives from Chubb Fire already there. They told us that our jobs were safe, they now owned Emtech, and if they needed any information, they would ask. Our new manager will appear in a few days as he is on holiday.
The start of being bulled in the workplace
The manager arrived, and it was a complete and utter disaster from start to finish. I’ve never experienced bullying in the workplace until I’ve met this person. I had never understood how insidious bullying could be, how it starts with such a brief comment, and how it can chip away at your confidence without you even knowing. The following two years with Chubb Fire were pure hell. The reason I’m saying this is that this line manager liked to have round tables. His idea was that we’d all sit around together and discuss issues in an open and frank manner. What this meant, I discovered over time, was that he would get his way. The staff and my manager would team up together and pick on me.
Bullying in the workplace and micro-management an Example
A prime example of this is that this line manager wanted me to micromanage staff. As far as he was concerned, they were not completing their tasks promptly. His idea was that I would go round to each staff member and ask what they were doing. At lunchtime, I would then go back to each member of staff and ask what they had done and what they plan to do in the afternoon. Before going home, I would then go around to each staff member to ask what they did and what they planned to do the next day. I had resisted doing this for three months. I was worn down and agreed to do it.
Within a week, all members of staff requested an open round table with the manager. The members of staff then brought up this micromanagement and said that I was treating them like children. They resented it. The staff resented me. Everyone hated micromanagement. At this open round table, my line manager looked at me and said, “Julie, why are you doing that? We’re all adults here and should be treated like adults”. Flabbergasted was an understatement. I said I was doing what you asked me to do. However, he decided not to hear that comment, as did everyone else.
The set up – Bullying in the Workplace
At the end of the meeting, I requested a quiet word with him in our meeting room and asked what he was playing at. He replied that he needed the staff to buck up their ideas and work harder to finish the work. I repeated my question and asked why he had set me up with the staff and didn’t back me up during our meeting. He answered that it doesn’t matter how we got to this resolution; the staff have agreed to do the backlog of work. They understand the urgency for getting work up to date and billed.
For the first time in my life, I complained to HR about this and a few other bullying tactics this line manager used. I will never do this type of round table again. This style of roundtables is rude, soul-destroying.
What I have learned about Bullying in the workplace and micro-management
I will not do a roundtable to get staff “to buy into” a project or manipulate them
Its exhausting to be bullied
You should never set anybody up at work to get a result
Writing My Memoirs – 31 Day Challenge – Video and Blog Posts
I have worked for several organisations, some were enormous, and others were tiny. My preference it to work for small organisations. I like that you get to do various jobs and experience all areas of a business. The best job I ever had was working for a company called Emtech. We specialised in fire prevention and running risk assessments for multi-tenanted buildings, mainly in London. We worked out of the owner (Emma) dining room. On the odd occasion, she had a dinner party. We had to pack the office away and turn it back into a dining room. It also meant we went home early.
I had the best job ever – before bullied at work
Three of us worked at Emtech, the owner Emma, and a part-timer who was a friend of Emma’s from childhood and myself. It was indeed a family business. I had just returned from backpacking around southeast Asia and Australia, so I lived in Dorset with my family. Emtech was in Gloucestershire. As a result, I would lodge with Emma in the Yellow Room for the first four months. In fact, during my interview, I ended up answering the phone for a client and organising a Fire Drill. We both liked the same music and had that blaring on the CD player.
A fantastic groom would come into the office for cups of tea when it was cold, and she needed to warm up. One of the additional tasks was to feed the horses if the groom had a day off and Emma visited a client in London. As you can see, it was very much a lifestyle job. I loved it.
Financial rewards were massive
I received my biggest bonus from Emtech. I had an appraisal (which we didn’t do). The first appraisal was after 12 months of service. We sat on the Cotswold stone wall in her garden drinking gin and tonic. She said she was happy with my work and what I was doing and gave me a £2000 pay rise. The second appraisal followed a similar process. Again, she said she was happy with my work and asked if I wanted a pay rise and bonus. Naturally, I said yes, that would be nice. I had a £2,000 pay rise and a £10,000 bonus.
Working for a small company has its issues. The most critical issue was what would happen if Emma sold the company. She had told me she never would, as it was her baby. Emma started the company at 18. We had an agreement that if she ever sold the company, she would tell me. It would not mean I would leave, but it would give me options.
I was summoned
You can understand my surprise when I was summoned to her home one Sunday as she had something urgent to discuss with me. Emma had been sick for some time, and I thought it was something to do with that. I drove to work at 2 pm and I found her sitting on the front lawn drinking Pimm’s. I joined her, and the first thing she said was that “your job is safe for a year”. She then told me she had sold the company to Chubb Fire, and they took ownership of the company on Friday.
I was devastated. Not that Emma had sold the company. It was probably the best decision, as she was looking to move into a different business. We had an agreement that she would tell me if she was going to sell the company. In the previous weeks, I had noticed that something was going on in the office. Paper was going missing. Items in the office had been moved, and the paperwork was out of order. In hindsight, she was preparing for the sale of the company.
I still find it challenging to comprehend that Emma lied so badly to me about the sale of the company. Indeed, only three days before the sale, I asked her if she would ever sell the company, and she told me it was her baby and she would never sell it.
I was asked to attend the office at 8 am the next day to help her tell the other staff members and assure them that nothing would change for about a year. 2002 was the start me being bullied at work and three years of hell working for Emtech and Chubb Fire.
What I learned about writing my memoirs and being bullied at work
When it comes to money, people will lie and betray you.
I know how much I was worth in 2002.
A company is just that, and everyone is expendable, whether we like it. We are not unique or invaluable when it comes to money and business.
Writing My Memoirs – 31 Day Challenge – Video and Blog Posts
I have a dilemma. One way in which small businesses market their services or products is by joining a local networking group. For those who don’t know, a networking group is a group of small businesses that meet regularly to promote their businesses to each other. There are three types of networking groups:
Informal Networking for Business
Informal networking for business is the odd conversations you have with family, friends and strangers. You could overhear someone asking for recommendations for a plumber or florist, for example. Looking at Facebook or any other social media platform and see a request for a publishing house. By you contacting them and making a recommendation is informal networking.
Semi-formal networking for business
Semi-formal networking would be membership in breakfast business meetings and becoming a member of your local Chamber of Commerce for example. Anywhere a businessperson would go to discuss their business with other business people. There may be an agenda for some meetings, but the structure is informal and friendly. Often there will be a charge for attending a semi-formal meeting, but not always.
Formal Networking for Business
Formal networking is meeting other businesses to discuss business and attending a meeting with a strict structure followed at each meeting. BNI is an example of a formal network. Most formal networking meetings will have a cost associated with membership.
My BNI Membership
I’m a member of a formal networking group called BNI. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been meeting online. However, regular meetings were all face to face. Unfortunately, the group that I am a member of has seen its membership declining massively. When I joined the group, there were about 28 members. The group was upbeat and fun.
Currently, there are eight members. In 10 months, we have lost 20 members, which for a referral networking group is massive. Under BNI rules, we should now revert to ‘A core group’. In practical terms, this means that our group focus must change. We no longer focusing on getting referrals for members and increasing sales but getting members into the group. This adjustment will be a substantial change in the group dynamic. The group I am in meets in Swindon when face-to-face; however, during COVID, we meet online. I’ve never met these people face-to-face.
My dilemma starts here. I know that there is a new BNI group about to start in my local town of Faringdon. The meetings will be online and face to face, the same structure as my Swindon group. It would be much easier to meet the group in my hometown due to the travel time when we meet face to face. Face-to-face meetings will only take place once a month as we move out of Covid.
The Networking Issue
The advantage of a formal networking group is that you are there to create relationships. These relationships are on trust. Once you trust someone, you are more likely to recommend that person, you, your family, friends, and clients. Trust takes time to build, which over the last eight to nine months, I have made with my Swindon group. Added to this, BNI is very expensive. It typically costs £60 a month (to hire a room and the cost of beverages/meal) and an annual membership of £540 plus VAT. Include your time and driving to and from the meeting.
A membership with BNI can cost around £5000+ a year. Therefore, any return needs to be over £5000. You should at least double that fee to make the Networking Business group work for you. Currently, I have received nothing from this current BNI group. I have given referrals, I’ve given my time and even taken on a leadership role. I have not yet received any referrals in return. The remaining seven people in the group are friendly. They are passionate, focused and want to grow the group. However, I also know the people setting up the BNI group in Faringdon exhibit the exact attributes. Which group do you join? The group in my local town will start in three weeks.
The issue I have with both groups is that for the next 6 to 8 months, the focus will be on growing the chapters and not getting business referrals. Do I ignore the previous eight months’ work I’ve put into this group? Then put all my effort and energy into a new group? Swindon is a much bigger area with more business opportunities. Faringdon is a much smaller town; however, networking is not about telling the room about your business. It is more about the room telling other people about your business. It’s about the contact those members in the room have, how they can promote your business. But that doesn’t mean that I will get more business from the Swindon area than from the Farrington area. Swindon will attract companies in Wiltshire, whereas Faringdon will attract companies from Oxfordshire.
Networking for Business Conclusion
Today, there are no learning points for this post as I genuinely do not know which way to turn. It is a quandary; both groups will meet face to face and online. Both groups will have the same passion and activities to grow the group. Do I throw away eight months of creating a relationship with seven other people and walk away? I genuinely do not know.
Writing My Memoirs – 31 Day Challenge – Video and Blog Posts
Setting your prices has to be one of the most stressful decisions a business owner will ever have to make. The price you want to charge and the price someone will pay for it are two very different concepts. As a business owner, you want to buy in, make or provide services at as little cost to you as possible. You want to sell that item to as many people as possible at the highest price and make a massive profit margin.
The way to work out your profit on a product is as follows.
Cost of goods – Selling Price = Profit
£12.50 – £25.00 = £12.50
Then, of course, out of your profit, you have expenses that have to be covered. The list of costs can be considerable; however, here are a few, VAT, salaries, rent, utilities for the business, marketing.
Setting your prices to match your corporate salary
When I left the corporate world, I wanted to keep the same standard of living, the same income, and charged accordingly. However, this would not work for my clients, so I had to adjust my prices. I have met other people who offer the same services, and they tell me my prices are far too low. However, I am still in business, and they are employed by someone else. Running a business is hard, but you have to get the finances right or you wont have a business.
Setting your prices is good unless you employ a twat
I remember a lady working for a few years ago. Let’s call her Judas. I asked Judas to provide bookkeeping services to one of my clients. After three months of working for the client under the umbrella of my company and seeing the invoice to my client, she spoke to the client and said she would work for them at the price she charged me. The result being, my company lost out on valuable revenue. When she spoke to me, she told me what she had done. Her only response was that she didn’t want to ‘take advantage of the client off’. She is happy with the price she gets for them, and everyone should be satisfied. Except, of course, I was out of a client and no longer had that income.
Judas had not understood that I had spent my money getting this company as one of my clients. On average, it takes two months to get a new client and can cost up to £1000. This spend is on marketing, meeting and understanding their needs, setting out contracts and terms of payment. (Very similar to what an employment agency does). She could not understand why I was so angry.
As you can tell, it irks to this day whenever I think about it. Besides that, I see her once a month working for someone else.
What I learnt about writing my memoirs
Sometimes people can let you down, and you have to let it go
Setting prices is not as easy as people think
Never employ a Judas
Writing My Memoirs – 31 Day Challenge – Video and Blog Posts
Getting a real job was never a phrase I would expect to hear from anyone when I started my business. It certainly wasn’t a phrase I expected to hear from my mother two or three years into running myPA Virtual Services. It was almost as if she thought I had played long enough with myPA, and now it’s time to return to work and get a real job.
Unfortunately, this is a statement and phrase that self-employed people hear more than you would think. So, what does this mean? It means that the person asking doesn’t have faith in your abilities to run a business. The product or service you specialise in is of no or little value, and that you cannot work for yourself. The person who asked gives the impression that they do not see your business as a proper business in the same terms that Tesco, BT or Virgin are.
Take business for granted
Often a small business owner is ignored, taken for granted, or dismissed. The assumption is that the work they do is not essential. The hours they work are often too many for such little reward, and self-satisfaction is not crucial. This attitude can also come from other small businesses if they offer a service that is not perceived to be of any or little value.
The Value of being Self-Employed
I remember being at a networking meeting in 2006 and speaking to an Action Coach. A business coach’s job is to help you grow your business. To help you become the best business owner, you can be and guide you through the worry of the legal, sales, marketing, and other aspects of business life.
I introduced myself as a Virtual PA. This coach looked at me and said, ‘Oh, you can’t help me, and you’re not the client I am after. You will be in paid employment within a few months.’ He then walked off, leaving me stunned. In his eyes, I will be getting a real job in the next few months. His statement infuriated me. He failed to see a business owner, a marketeer, a salesperson, and an accountant, a business owner who has the same issues as any other business owner. However, I offered a service that he didn’t respect, which was odd, as he suggested to his clients to use a VA.
I am still going strong, and he is still in the same networking sphere as I am. Recently, he tried to get me to join his Action Coach mentor group to help get my business over its first three years. I started my business in 2002. My business has been going for a lot longer than 3-years, and I had to remind him of parts of our previous conversation. He politely said sorry, he didn’t recognise me. His attitude to his clients is not at all complimentary either. He describes them as buying units. Not people, not businesses, but buying units. How many people do you think I have recommended him to?
Going back to the phrase getting a real job, what does this mean for the self-employed person? The business owner must have the confidence to continue with the business. The self-belief that what they are doing is worthwhile and that the short-sightedness of the other person does not affect their confidence, plans, or business. All this shows there is that lack of self-belief in the other person. A self-employed person has the confidence to believe in their talents and skills and provide the service better than anyone else.
Small businesses work within the sphere of other small businesses. myPA provides admin support to a web developer who provides a website for an IFA who gives financial advice to individuals. It is also interesting to note that the small business, self-employed, and micro-business sectors didn’t get affected by the recession in 2008. We continued to offer the services, turn up to networking meetings, and help our clients survive the downturn in business. The significant effect of the recession for small businesses was a lack of cash flow, generally because of larger companies not paying their bills on time or instigating 90- or 120-day payment terms.
Why was there a cash flow problem?
Payment terms are agreed at the outset of a contract. However, during the recession the owners of small business called their larger clients for payments, and an employee said payment would be delayed. (I lost two clients because of this cruel practice. Their business was a success but needed the cash to pay staff. The owners couldn’t live on cash reserves for two to three months at a time. This also brings in the story of One, which will be another video in this series). But if you told that employee their salary would be delayed by 90 or 120 days, it would be a very different story. I know small businesses that now refuse to work with larger organisations.
An example of now working with large businesses
There is an unwritten understanding that small and micro businesses rarely work for the government because of the payment return. It is far too challenging to get a contract. The number of hoops, reams of paperwork and legal requirements placed on the small business makes it an unprofitable venture even to start.
I know of a small business invited to tender for a government contract. They hired someone to help with the tender paperwork. They increased internal security and upgraded IT systems at their request. Three months of attending meetings, redoing forms, and providing evidence of their service. At the last hurdle, the contract was awarded to an existing supplier. This small business lost thousands of pounds and will never work with or apply for a government contract again.
Are small businesses worth it? Just try Getting a Real Job?
Small businesses are adaptable to changes in the market. They are flexible and offer a quality of services to their clients. They are approachable, and you will always deal with a human being. Just look at LinkedIn, search for small businesses. Look at the likes of BNI, who cater for small businesses and finally think about all those lorry drivers, builders and electricians and plumbers. Most of them are self-employed. We make the world go around. Being self-employed brings ingenuity, innovation, and creativity. So why would you think about getting a real job? We already have one.
I remember I started answering the telephone for one of my clients and the phone provider (I think it was BT) gave my clients 0845 number to Tesco. My client had this number for three or four years. Someone at BT had made an error. We got calls from Tesco’s customers as they held a fruit yoghurt competition. We had a nervous few days trying to sort out this issue. BT and Tesco telling us that the small business would have to get another number and take the hit on reprinting their business cards, headed paper, and other marketing material. All my client’s hard work over the previous three years marketing the business. The cost of that would be in the thousands.
Small businesses work hard for what they do. The thought of getting a real job, or I should say a salaried position with an employer, would never cross their minds or mine. I have a real job and love what I do. My boss can be demanding, but you know what, I know her very well and can ask her anything.
What I learnt about writing my memoirs for getting a real job
Asking a self-employed person when they are getting a real job is an insult to the hard work, dedication and time a self-employed person has made to make their business viable
Self-employed small businesses need the support of those around them
Small businesses make up most business in the UK
Writing My Memoirs – 31 Day Challenge – Video and Blog Posts